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POETRYETC  2001

POETRYETC 2001

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Subject:

one more with feeling

From:

Frederick Pollack <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Poetryetc provides a venue for a dialogue relating to poetry and poetics <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 25 Dec 2001 22:47:22 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (295 lines)

In response to popular demand, here's the long poem of which "WTC,"
previously sent, is a part.  Hope you all get a kick out of it.


Mission Creep


1

The Language Poets have a point: the act
of sitting down to write a poem, the posture
itself - or even walking
to think about a poem, which implies
leisure - triggers
a kind of endorphin
capitalism puts there.  You can't help but
sink into the elegiac,
theatrical or clubby
subject-position
capitalism puts there
unless you attack syntax
*her breast       warplanes       mice
I hoped      !       Lacan*
and with it "the self,"
till you achieve the detachment
from received value-narratives
of a Lenin (or, for that matter,
a first-rate bond-trader).


2

Except for pain and death, life
is a poem.  It is endlessly subtle
and, as people say, beautiful
(saying this is part of the poem)
and one would much rather
interpret than change it.
For changing is not living,
and, changed, it wouldn't be life
and would therefore be death
or pain.  When I'm sick or afraid,
I can't stop reading.
No satisfying conclusion,
only sporadic dissipations;
it must be an epic,
an epic without a hero 
(deciding you're the hero is part of the poem).


3

In the grievous 70s,
I spoke with Seth Bernstein
(who, I had recently learned, was a Jungian)
about Jung and archetypes, condemning both.
Jung seems to flatter artists
by making them the mavens
of archetypes, but it's a gilded prison:
circles, cycles, airless truisms,
one vast authoritarian tit ...
I wanted an art without symbols.
"It would have no life," said Seth.
"It wouldn't fly, because you couldn't inflate it."
On the contrary, I said.
I wanted an art in which facts
(the facts of my petty anguish)
would remain jagged,
attaching themselves like burrs to human perception;
I wanted, as Jabs says
(I had been reading Jabs), to "scratch empty space" 
At which he gently, predictably asked
what I was really attacking,
thus earning his reduced rate
as I would cheerfully relate
if the subject of therapy
were poetically worthy.


4

The "I"s that appear in a text incrementally weaken it.
For I is a throwaway.  I is Being's dandruff.
I's regusted.  I is
whatever they say about it.
I is someone else, whose name is Chuck,
who in surroundings preternaturally simple
yet social, a town, a field, speaks
with total conviction and clarity
to listeners who, for once,
are capable of receiving them ...
It's the Jesus scenario, echoed
in hagiographic Thirties paintings
of dictators, and by bin Laden,
eating a pious meal with friends
on a floor, on video.  So when
his hearers begin to move
with a single transformative will, Chuck hesistates:
*am I being original  ?*
I is elitist, I is always wrong.  Let's talk about you.


5

Suburban or rural tears - stifled
so that some brute or child will not awake.
A welcome chill of window-frost
on bruises, the only friend
the furnace going on.
Or solitude, bulimia;
or - lower - cold.

In Jamaica, in the "Free Zone,"
the pain of back and arms after twelve hours
sewing, then
the month's thirty dollars
vanished with the job
for somewhere even cheaper - oh,
stop it.  (I saw a documentary.)
Stop.  It's embarrassing.
The conventions of our poetry and taste
are those of the metropole.
If you researched local color,
context, people, loved them
for a long narrative,
critics would applaud your effort
and virtue (meaning their own,
in reading), and teachers might assign it,
while you all went on drinking, eating, wearing
whatever exports nations are assigned.
Grow up.  It's OVER.
What exists is power.
Regret is all in your mind.


6

I had one idea: there has never been
a miracle.  What counts as miracle
is anomaly.
Generally, water will not support
a man walking.
Statistically, the dead don't revive.
The loaves and fishes were closer
to real miracle, i.e., contradiction.

Father would stay dead
but I could have a drink and talk with him.
He would remain that somewhat alarming figure,
at the same time showing
the calm I saw in a few dreams.
I would continue in this fate and body,
and not.  Name any date;
imagine drawing the curse from it.
Choice, even whim would be the key.
A God who would guarantee
that state, then exit,
would be something.

A less original corollary
(Ivan Karamazov's thought)
is that to thank God for a miracle,
popularly defined, means
oppressing those who didn't get one.
The just would therefore see
atheism as piety,
their only comfort in refusing comfort.

That was my idea.


7

                                *These died, in any case* 
                                               - Pound

Let the hucksters work
the edges of the crowd;
they're quiet, their money small and innocent.
The flag they sell, on every kind of shirt,
pin, purse, with occasionally a roused
eagle,
will be the only metaphor.

The shops along the narrow streets,
now ending half a block
from Broadway, are going out of business -
"after ten years," their signs announce
above cheap luggage, cellphones, replicas
of Liberty;
they thank "the community."
Those windows have been cleaned,
but ten feet up - and up and up -
a purplish paste
composed of paper, stone, and people
wraps every floor.

The smell venturi-ing from the crater
in the warm fall wind
is the smell inside something.
Traffic has stopped; one of the hoses is leaking.
Visiting firemen
from Jacksonville and Portland
in their dress uniforms
move purposefully, grimly,
yet also barely move.
For the crowd is as thick
as the flowers it lays,
the names it signs, the words it writes
on sheets that hang from the fences,
and no one wants to be here or to leave;

even the intellectual
who for the first time
feels, with a double horror,
what it is to belong and to believe.


8

I like those places where it's pointless,
unprofitable or,
for the moment, impossible
to scrap the past:
long blocks of brick apartment buildings,
shells of a hidden, stoic life;
loose boards and nails, not even picturesque,
in rural slums;
factory towns where factories have closed
and no boutiques moved in;
the desert.

"Jewish Desert-longing Finds Expression"
read a sign at the Degenerate Art exhibit.

It isn't the past I feel in such places,
or opportunity,
but a constant blind probing
like the repeated clutching motion of premature babies.

I think how I could wander in the desert,
given supplies and time,
and not know that the desert spread, or when
the great waste of Nebraska, Iowa
was made to bloom,
the air made breathable again,
till looking up I saw -
dark, stately, vaguely pyramidal,
heading into port -
an immense starship.


9

Redoing Stevens along marxist lines
is thankless; for the obsolescence
of Marx and of complex post-Symbolist verse
make it as pointless
as the plottings of the gents
at *New Tradition* or *Chronicles of Decay*
for a Christian Society or Tonal Music -
another antiquarian cabal.

Redoing Stevens along marxist lines,
the imagination isn't
the busy, endlessly pervasive force
he imagined
but a small constituency
one can't afford to favor or ignore.
It faces material obstacles
I visualize as an editress.
(Portraying the problem this way, or at all,
already queers my chances.)
She is highly educated, perfectly nice,
wants things to be nice,
and having found an irate but lyrical Black,
some mournful Gays and enough Women
to serve justice,
she is willing to see (I flatter myself)
what the imagination has to say.
Seeing it, she responds with visceral loathing
for which she must find concepts, or not,
and glares at me across the frontier of language
where history says tasteless hurtful things.
We go on meeting like this.

Redoing Stevens along marxist lines
requires faith in words, which keep no faith,
kindness for something that refuses kindness,
the use of unreflective surfaces
as mirrors, wholesale deportations from
(or to) the past and other
theaters of the combat that defines
redoing Stevens along marxist lines.

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